Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Swollen Beyond Recognition

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was a story F. Scott Fitzgerald had a hard time selling to magazines like Collier’s, which wanted him to write more Jazz Age flapper stories. A delicate supernatural tale about a man who is born old and ages in reverse, “Benjamin Button” is a masterpiece of short-story writing.

In a letter to his agent, Fitzgerald explained the origin of the idea:

“The story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain’s to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. By trying to experiment upon only one man in a perfectly normal world I have scarcely given the idea a fair trial. Several weeks after completing it, I discovered an almost identical plot in Samuel Butler’s ‘Note-books.’”

The story occupies about 20 pages. Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Panic Room) has made a movie based on this story that runs 167 minutes. This seems to me like taking a small, perfect jewel and pasting it on a huge, garish costume-jewelry brooch.

The movie opens December 25. I’ll write a fuller review in an upcoming post.

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